Solving tricky landscape lighting problems with a Polarizing Filter

Solving tricky landscape lighting problems with a Polarizing Filter

Polarizing filters are typically thought of as a shooting solution for capturing images containing glare, and perhaps for “darkening skies.” But there is another great use for them that is often neglected – making up for harsh light. Sometimes it is difficult to get to a location when the light is still soft, or sometimes – like with the pictured Aspen grove – the subject just isn’t lit until the Sun is high in the sky. A Polarizer can help…

A Polarizer cuts reflected light in general, not just light that happens to be bouncing off water. Much of our mid-day light doesn’t come directly from the Sun, but has been bounced off the blue sky. This causes two issues for photographers. First, the light illuminating the scene is cooler than we might like. Adding a polarizer warms up the scene, to make it more like the one we’d see in the better light of early morning or late afternoon. The second problem is that often there is a lot of glare on small surfaces in the scene, like leaves. This glare isn’t as obvious as the large patches you might see on a pond or lake, but can be almost as destructive to your image. Your Polarizer can help cut those small areas of glare as well.

Aspen Grove, Angora Ridge, South Tahoe, California
, Nikon 24-85mm AF-S Lens

The combination is a much-improved image compared to the one that you’d get without using a Polarizer. Remember that there isn’t really any substitute for a physical Polarizer (typically a Circular Polarizer for those of us who rely on Autofocus). Digital “Polarizer” plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom are clever, but they can’t go back and see from which direction the light is coming.

If you don’t have a Circular Polarizer, . Let us know how you get on if you decide to use your Polarizer in some new ways.